First Day of School Nostalgia

Tuesday was the first day of school.

It was more than a little bittersweet to me. This was the first summer in Oregon I didn’t spend home with the boys, and I feel almost like the whole season almost passed me by. When you don’t get home until 5:30 and jump straight into frantically cooking dinner for hangry children, bedtime and nighttime and getting up to get ready for work the next morning is on you before you know it.

On the other hand, Oregon did her best to make it feel as summery as possible to try to make up for it, so maybe fall isn’t such a bad thing. We had almost no rain from May on, and the whole state seems dry and crackly. Local parks lost quite a few older trees due to the overly dry summers, and the ground feels hard-baked beneath my feet.

I may not be ready for the return of the rain, but the land certainly is, and I can’t begrudge it the moisture.

Anyways, as I was saying, Tuesday was the first day of school which always makes me feel more than a little nostalgic. I remember lining up in front of my mom’s camera with its shutterclick sound, bright flash, and the roll of film that would wind itself up at the end of every spool. First day of school pictures are a yearly tradition.

As I dragged everyone outside into the nicer light to take my own pictures, DragonMonkey dutifully dropped his backpack on the ground and walked over to the designated picture-taking area. “Why do we have to do this every year?”

“Because….. because it makes a nice collage when you’re all done. I can see how you looked at the beginning of each year. I have first day pics of me, all the way up until my first day of college.

He lined up in front of the wall in front of our house, and reached for his yellow piece of construction paper with the hastily-written words in cheap marker. “If we’re… if we’re still doing this in college, do you think that maybe…. I mean, not to hurt your feelings, but maybe we could get nicer signs instead of paper?”

Present Becky is always willing to make promises on Future Becky’s behalf, so I was quick to agree. Future Becky would totally make one of those awesome, color-coordinated, sturdy Pinterest-style signs.

Future Becky is a chump.

I raised my cell phone, and DragonMonkey threw on his customary closed-mouth smirk smile that he always does for pictures, the one that makes him look disturbingly teenagerish.

After that it was Squid’s turn – I say Squid because that’s what I’ve called him on this blog since the beginning (when he was a Squidgelet), but he’s recently informed us that we are not to refer to him by that nickname anymore. In fact, we are not to refer to him by any nicknames. He will only respond to his full name.

I raised my cell phone, and he tilted his head back, looking at me with the heavy-lidded cool-dude expression he always likes to don for pictures.

“Squid, can’t you open your eyes a little bit more? I can barely see your eyes. You don’t have to smile if you don’t want to, but just open your eyes a little mo—“

“Bus,” intoned the Bean. “BUS!”

I snapped another picture in desperation:

And then kissed them as they dashed down the street, their backpacks rising and falling with each stride.

Like I said, first days of school always makes me feel nostalgic, and as I drove to work my brain rattled down familiar roads. Am I doing enough, as a mom? Am I being there enough, helping enough, loving enough, challenging and pushing enough, educating enough? Am I screwing any of them up? Have I already screwed them up beyond repair? Will they turn into adults I actually like, ones I am proud of? What can I improve on?

It was that last thought that trapped my brain. If you have multiple children, it’s not an easy answer. Every kid is unique. Even if I could wave a magic wand and change myself, each of my kids would want something different from me.

If DragonMonkey could reshape me, I think he’d turn me into the quintessential Pinterest mom. I’d rise before dawn in a wrinkle-free, coordinated outfit, and cook a couple of pounds of bacon and pancakes. I’d wake him with a hug and a tickle and invite him to feast while I washed all the breakfast dishes myself, and then he would get dressed and I’d spend the rest of the day chauffeuring him around to new experiences. Our days would be scheduled, right down to the minute, and there would be few surprises. Everything would be planned out (well in advance) with professional-looking calendars and well-packed gym bags for soccer games and playdates (are they still called playdates at his age? Probably not.) Upon returning home I’d miraculously produce a hearty, healthy, meat-and-vegetable dinner within minutes. After dinner we would play a light round of video games.

It sounds exhausting, but he would be so, so content.

Also, he would want me to have super long, super straight hair. I dunno. It’s just a thing with him.

What would Squid want?

Squid would want me to be Elsa:

only I’d be Elsa with a machine gun.

It be only me and him, no other siblings around, and we would have amazing adventures where we would shoot guns and rappel down walls and help people. At the end of each adventure he would heroically save us all, and most likely I would present him with a nightly medal he could hang on his wall. We’d feast all day on ice cream and sodas and candy.

My hair would also be long, and I would never cut it, because cutting hair is pretty much the same as ruining everything about yourself forever and ever. I’d be a crack shot with a rifle, and always have on fresh lipstick.

I’m not gonna lie, aside from the whole makeup thing and wearing a dress, I think I’d have a lot of fun in Squid’s World.

If I’m being honest, the twins would probably love to change me too. Finn’s imaginary mom is the easiest to understand – I didn’t even have to think very hard to know what he would want.

Finn would very much like it if I could stop being me, and just figure out a way to be The Bean, except with boobies.

Seriously.

He would be SO content if I could just figure out a way to make this happen. Also, my/ Bean’s boobies would still be producing copious amounts of milk that never ran out, and Finn would still be able to nurse all day. The two of them would live on a tractor, alternating all day between nursing and doing tractor-type stuff.

I’m pretty sure if Finn was in charge of heaven, that’s all it would be: Heavily-lactating, giant-boobed men on a variety of different tractors.

You can see why I’d rather be stuck in Squid’s world, right?

Magpie is a harder nut to crack, because she’s so quiet with her wants. I know she would like to have Mommy/daughter time without any pesky brothers around. In her imaginary mom world I would be a fashion diva, and we would both dress up constantly.

Please understand that by dress up I don’t mean we would wearing tasteful evening gowns with sensible heels – oh no. Magpie’s version of dressing up consists of layering accessories upon accessories… and also, do you know what makes an accessory really pop? Another accessory.

The two of us would adorn ourselves like real-life Fancy Nancies:

and then we would spend quite a bit of time just sitting around pointing out each other’s amazing outfits. Earrings. Yes, earrings. I am wearing earrings. You have sparkly shoes. Yes, yes you do. I do, too.

We would admire each other’s glasses, frequently.

Wherever we went each day, it would not be in a car pointed in the direction of home, because oh lawsie, “NOT DAT WAY. NOT DAT WAY. NO HOME… NOT DAT WAY.” She’s an adventuring sort at heart.

She’s not very particular about what we would do, provided we do it together, but if I had to come up with something I think we would spend the entire day swinging on swings at the park, trying on different pairs of shoes, and maybe riding a pony. We’d have a collection of items we dragged around, from Purple Bow Dog to Rattle Elephant, and we would very systematically rearrange them around ourselves wherever we went.

We would hold hands, a lot. We’d practice number facts, and sing the ABC’s and “Tinka Tinka Widdah Stah” over, and over, and over. And over.

And over, and over, and over, and over.

Also, we would feast on .99 cent bagged salad from Safeway, because she’s kind of weird that way.

Maybe it’s for the best that the kids can’t rearrange me to suit their desires… It’s exhausting just imagining it.

In other news: Reverie isn’t coming home until closer to the end of the month, which I’m thrilled about. I can definitely use another week or so to get things ready for her.

My Weird Dreams vs The Bean’s Weird Dreams

For years my dreams have both plagued and thrilled me.

I’ve had terrifying dreams, waking dreams, and disjointed-but-full-of-symbolism dreams. I’ve had awesome dreams ruined by my husband’s practical nature, suffered from creepy sleep paralysis, and lately I’ve been unnerved by awful “awake-but-not-quite-awake-as-floating-faces-draw-ever-nearer” dreams.

I’ve had mom threesome dreams, dreams where I almost but-not-quite get to ride a horse, and dreams where I’m a crappy parent.

I’ve had the ubiquitous “Oh no, it’s finals day and I didn’t even study” nightmare.

I’ve dreamed I’m combating housecleaning with my specialized Magic the Gathering card decks.

I’ve had lactation nightmares and dreams of swashbuckling bravery, dreams with background music, Game of Thrones Librarian dreams, dreams with old friends I’ve never met anywhere in real life, but who I walk with regularly as I sleep…

I’ve even dreamed I was a My Little Pony with an assault rifle, only to have it ruined at the very end.

I mean, seriously. My dream life is THE BOMB. I feel sorry for non-dreamers sometimes. I go to bed, curl up on my left hand side and drift off, and then I wake up with a magic bow that shoots napalm arrows and I’m infiltrating the enemy base to single-handedly bring down corrupt governments. I have chase dreams, superhero swat team and dreams where I’m trying to survive the zombie apocalypse while high on LSD.

I have dreams where I’m stuck trying to take down the Mexican cartel and the only weapon I have is a fuzzy troll doll/banana slug hybrid.

I regularly have lucid dreams where I use my cognizance as a weapon, and even lucid dreams where I feel pity for the people in my head. Some dreams are funny, a lot of them are not. Some nightmares are so terrible that I don’t even like to write them down, because I keep hoping the details will fade.

The worst ones won’t, no matter how many decades go by.

I’ve even had epic three and four part dreams, where I wake up and then go right back to the same story line the next night, and the multi-part sprawling story line is so complex and woven so tightly that I’ve jotted down the plot in hopes of turning it into a book one day.

Strangely enough, I used to have nightmares about having twins all the time, but since I had to combat that phobia in real life, it’s gone away. There’s power in facing your fears.

Dreams sometimes feel like they are as much a part of who I am as my waking life – an entire swirling second plane of existence I visit for 8-10 hours every day (hahaha, who am I kidding? I have four kids. 5-6 hours a night?).

My dreams are huge and complex and creepy and wonderful.

And then there is the Bean.

The Bean is not very artsy. Oh, he loves beauty, but he is drawn to the beauty of symmetry, or stark beauty, or the kind of powerful beauty contained in 30 foot waves off the southern coast of Chile. I used to ask him what he dreamed about, but eventually I stopped. Even though he was honest when he shared, it took me years to actually believe him. It wasn’t that they were too fantastic to comprehend, but rather that they were too literal.

This morning the alarm clock went off way too early. Finn is still sleeping between us in our bed,

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and lately he has gone from mostly sleeping through the night to waking up every 2-3 hours, asking for another bottle.

Usually around bottle number 2-3, his diaper overflows and wets all of our sheets, and we wake up gritty-eyed, exhausted, and covered in toddler pee.

Parenting: it’s not for the faint of heart.

After several weeks of devolving sleep, I finally had enough and tried putting down my foot yesterday. I told him he would not be getting a third bottle in the wee hours of the morning, and that two bottles was quite enough.

Two or three hours of disjointed, angry screaming toddler non-sleeping later, our alarm went off. I rolled over, trying to blink my hot, too-dry eyes as I returned to reality. What had I been dreaming of? There was a sense of impending doom….. had I been rappelling down the side of a burning building, Australian-style? Why was the building on fire… was it the apocalypse again?….

“I had the weirdest dream,” The Bean murmured, the sound of his voice shattering the haze of my dream into disjointed scenes.

I rolled over and looked at him. “Oh yeah?” The Bean dreams so infrequently that it’s a rare treat for him to remember one.

“I owned a gas station.”

“Yeah?”

“And I had a catalog of all the snacks, so I was going through the catalog, making decisions about what to restock..”

“Yeah?”

“……”

“Then what? You had the catalog, you were trying to figure out what to restock, and then…”

“…..Becky, I just owned a gas station. I was going through the inventory, selecting what to order from catalog. ”

“…… Wait, that’s it?”

“Yeah.”

That was it. His “weird” dream consisted of him doing inventory.

Ten years of marriage, guys, and I still don’t understand how this man’s brain works.

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DragonMonkey and the Disappointing Dinner

It was too hot to cook last night.

After six summers in Oregon I have finally acclimated.  I sweat and whine and flop about bonelessly whenever the sun gets too warm, which is generally anything over 90 degrees.

I know.  I know.  Feel free to mock me – I certainly am.

While that’s still a lot more stoic than most of the other “anything over 80 sucks” long-term Oregonians around me, it’s still a far cry from the Becky of the early 2000s, who would patiently mutter “I really don’t enjoy doing an 10 hour day in the Bakersfield sun whenever it hits over 102”.

Yesterday was a balmy 95 degrees, and despite a house with central AC and an office with AC so crisp that every patron who steps through the doorway smiles in pleasure, I just couldn’t bring myself to embrace the idea of cooking when I got home.

I tried asking my friend Google for help.

“Google, it’s too hot to cook. What kind of dinner should I make for my four kids?”

I did my best to keep it simple.  I learned long ago not to ask Google to consider the fact that Magpie is dairy-free or that DragonMonkey is gluten-free… the results are too weird and difficult.

Even so, the results were fairly predictable.

“Becky, you should have grilled up tri-tip two days before you needed to ask this question so you could marinade it in your fridge and slice it up today to serve with a variety of cold salsas!”

“Sorry.  I forgot – Google, what kind of quick dinners can I feed my four kids when it’s too hot to cook?”

“Becky, you should make hamburgers!  Fire up that grill that stands right in the sun with no shade and then roast things for an hour.. that’s the perfect no-cooking meal!”

“Google, NO. You’re not listening. What kind of I DON’T WANT TO COOK AT ALL meals should I make my kids tonight?  Meals for a hot summer night that kids will actually eat?  And I swear, if you recommend some kind of garlic spinach Brussel sprout salad again, I’m going to hate you for the rest of my life.  What kind of kid starts jumping up and down in excitement at the idea of a garlic spinach Brussel sprout salad?”

“Becky, you should make chilled bean dip!”

“Huh, that sounds kind of good.  How do I–”

“You take black beans and mix them up with garlic and sliced cilantro harvested beneath a winter moon.  Mash it with a silver fork and blend for 2.3 seconds n a counterclockwise direction with acai berries and je ne sais quoi and sprinkle it with foreign spices and blood of a virgin and…”

So I turned to Facebook, where people are much more reasonable, and got a bunch of wonderful answers.  Deli meat platters.  Veggies and ranch dips.  Ice cream sundaes.  Order Dominos.  Send the Bean out to grill for me.

I finally settled on cereal, and decided to make an event of it.  I stopped off at the store on my way to pick up the kids from the sitter’s, and grabbed four boxes of forbidden, name-brand, sugar cereal.

After herding all four of them upstairs into the house, I pulled out the boxes with a flourish.  Lucky Charms. Fruit Loops.  Cap’n Crunch.  Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds.

“Dig in and have as much as you want!” I announced, gesturing at the boxes with a flourish.. “It’s too hot cook, so today and tomorrow are cereal dinner nights!”

Three children cheered.

“Wow!  Yummy!  Thanks, Mommy, you’re the best!” cried Squid.

“Ceweal!” chirped Magpie with a giant grin, and then glancing sideways at her big brother, she added an absolutely adorable, “Gank oo, Mammy.”

“CEWEAL!” echoed Finn, dragging on his high chair, trying to pull it over to the table.  “Wan up.  CEREAL!  Wan up!  Pease.  CEWEAL!”

DragonMonkey crooked an eyebrow, the weight and responsibility of his preteen years settling heavily on his shoulders.  “Really, mom? This is dinner? Don’t you think we need more vitamins and protein than this?”

“Dude.  It’s cereal.  We rarely even eat it for breakfast.  Relax and be happy.  This is a fun treat.”

He picked up a box and squinted at the side.  “It says here it has 12 grams of sugar.  That’s too much sugar.  You’re really going to give this to us for dinner?”  His gaze settled on me, waiting for me to make the right decision.

“Relax, DragonMonkey.  I’m not sitting you in front of a TV and cramming M&Ms down your throat on a nightly basis.”

“M&Ms?  We have M&Ms?”  said Squid, perking up with interest.

“No.  It’s a simile…. wait, it’s a metaphor…. Oh, I forget.  No.  Eat your sugar cereal and be happy.”

“Thanks, Mom!” Squid said.

DragonMonkey took a deep breath and proceeded to explain slowly, as if I was the world’s slowest learner. “Mom, it’s not good for us to have this much sugar.  Our muscles need protein.”  He shook his head, manfully shouldering the burden of his oh-so-disappointing mother.

“Fine. Everyone but you gets Lucky Charms.  You can go eat a limp hot dog and gnaw on frozen broccoli, or wilted lettuce or something.”

“No, no.  It’s fine.”  He poured a bowl with a sigh.  “I just think that maybe other moms out there are feeding their kids real dinners.  It’s okay though.”  He sighed, heavily.  “It’s fine.”

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For sale:  pre-teen with opinions.

CHEAP.

 

Conversations About Carrots

“Hey, Mom?”

“Yeah?”

“If one of our horses pooped…. If one of our horses pooped….. if one of them….”

“Take a breath, think about what you want to say, and try again.”

(Deep breath in, then out) “If one of our horses pooped gold, we could probably keep all four of them, huh?”

“Son, if one of our horses pooped gold, your dad would love horses more than we do, and we’d be able to keep as many as we wanted.  Also, when we mucked stalls the wheelbarrow would be very heavy.”

 

***********************

 

“So I found a vet to give Carrots an ultrasound on Satur—”

“I WANT TO COME! I WANT TO COME! I WANT TO COME!”

“Shhh, let me finish.  Anyways, the vet will give her an ultrasound on Saturday, which will tell us for sure if Carrots is pregnant, and also let us maybe know how far along she is in the pregnancy, within a month or so.”

“I WANT TO COME!”

“Well, I would love to have you with me, but the thing is—”

“I WANT TO COME!”

“The thing is, it’s going to be a long car ride, and I’m going to spend it talking with Rose, so you’d have to sit in the back seat and not talk.  Also, when we got to the vet’s, you would have to be so quiet it would be as if you aren’t there.”

“I can do that!”

“You would have to be still and quiet and just listen, because I want to focus all of my attention on the veterinarian, and Carrots.”

“I can do that!”

“Also, it’s not like the ultrasounds I used to get when I was pregnant with the twins.”

“What do you mean?  They aren’t going to lay her down on a table?”

“No, they do it standing.  They will give her a sedative to make her feel sleepy and relaxed, and then the vet—“

“I know, I know, I know.  The vet puts lotion on her stomach and then puts the thing on it and slides it around and–”

“No, she doesn’t.  Now, would you quit interrupting me and let me finish?”

“Okay.  Sorry, Mom.”

“So, the vet does put lotion on, but what she does first is put on a reaaaalllly long rubber glove, probably all the way over her elbow, and then she puts lotion on top of the glove… and then she picks up Carrots’ tail and grabs the ultrasound wand and then she shoves that arm alllll the way up Carrot’s butthole, probably up to the elbow, and she’ll do the ultrasound that way.”

“WHAT?”

“Yup.”

“No.  I’m good. No, no, no, never mind.  I’m good.  I don’t need to be a part of that.  I think I’ll stay home.  I don’t need to be a part of that.”

“Yeah, that’s what I figured.”

 

Photo taken minutes apart – what a difference level ground, good angle, and better lighting can make! Also, the bad angle shows why I’m working so hard to get more calories into her. I invested in some Horse guard weight gain and alfalfa pellets that I will soak in addition to the rice bran.  She seems to have less appetite – which would make sense if she really is pregnant. Let’s hear it for answers on Saturday!  Also, this is a really long photo caption.  I probably should make it its own paragraph, but I’m much too lazy for that.